I haven't posted anything in quite a while. The pain in my life has been a little too raw to share. My Mom was diagnosed with cancer last spring, and she died on February 15. With Mother's Day close at hand, the following post was extremely hard for me to write. I hope it helps someone out there. First, reflections from the Bard.
"To be, or not to be: That is the question.
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing, end them. To die; to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep we say we end
The heartache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to; 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die; to sleep;--
To sleep? Perchance to dream..."
-Hamlet, Act III, i
"O weary night! O long and tedious night,
Abate thy hours! Shine comforts from the east!
...And sleep, that sometimes shuts up sorrow's eyes,
Steal me awhile from mine own company."
-A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act III, ii
I used to ask my Mom, "Was I a good baby?" She would smile and say "Well...you were good, but you fought sleep." I wonder if this is learned behavior because I still fight sleep when I've got a lot on my mind, when I'm overly anxious. Fighting sleep. Maybe I could un-learn this horrible habit. I tell people I'm "having trouble" sleeping, but the truth is; I fight it. Why? I think it's fear of missing out on something. Maybe I have a lack of trust, and subconsciously, I think I have to stay awake to make sure the the world keeps turning.
In the weeks leading up to my Mom's death when I was staying in my parents house with them, it made sense to fight sleep. I didn't want to miss a second of interaction with her. If she needed me, I wanted to rush in and save the day, to cater to her every whim. I knew that if she died without me by her side I would be uncontrollable. I couldn't miss out. As strange as this sounds, I wanted to participate in that moment. After reflection, I think I assumed my presence might somehow stop this horrible thing from happening.
The night before she died I remember getting into the car to make the longest six hour drive of my life. I was told that she had been nonresponsive for a few days. I wanted her to see me, to respond to me. I wanted to get there in time for her to know I was there beside her. I foolishly assumed I could give her the strength she needed. I leaned over her bed when I arrived, "I'm here Mom! Mom, I'm here." She opened her beautiful blue eyes, saw me, and closed them for the last time. And she slept.
Dad and I stayed up all night with her and watched her sleep a deep deep sleep. We talked. We even laughed. We held her hand. We brushed tears away and tried to be strong. For her. But she simply slept. She didn't fight. She didn't need my strength. Her strength was in her acceptance of this final sleep. She was stronger than I have ever been. Her death was gentle, a release of pain and tension. Her "fight" against pain was won. There were no tears. Only surrender. Only peace. And sleep.